Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 65: Blow the wind southerly :

Here in the southern hemisphere it is winter, it officially began on 1st June in Australia which is out of kilter with the midwinter solstice of 21st June, when the sun reaches it’s lowest point in the sky, marking the shortest day and the day that a season would normally begin; in the northern hemisphere summer officially begins on that same date.

I like winter suns, pale and grey, indeed, I like winter. Time to get out the Nick Drake CD’s and time to start long and slow cooking (this on advice given me by my good friend and cook/nutritionist Holly Davis). One of my signature dishes is pea & ham soup, nothing particularly original there, but it’s something that I’ve been crafting and working at over the years. I never vary the recipe and it’s simple: buy a ham hock from your local supermarket or supplier, throw it in a pot with a 500g packet of rinsed dried green peas. Add two or three bay leaves, a chopped brown onion, three or four sizeable cloves of garlic, two or three diced carrots and maybe a diced stick or two of celery. Add black pepper, fresh thyme and top up with water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for an hour and a half. Pull out the ham hock and strip the meat from the bone, chopping it up. Mash or blend the rest of the soup contents to the smoothness or chunkiness you desire and throw the meat in. That’s it, you’re done.

I prefer my wardrobe in the colder months too. I get to layer: jacket, scarf, sweater, shirt, tie, a coat maybe. I also prefer the colours of winter clothes and the thicker fabrics and tea and listening to Vaughan Williams (previously mentioned in these pages) and somehow my life just all fits together that little bit better. I swear that I write better in the winter months. I’m no Graham Greene or Somerset Maughan, sweating it out in some far-flung corner of the colonies, clacking away on a typewriter as an overhead fan whirls above me like some sort of authorial metronome.

No, for me, it’s getting up at regular intervals from the keyboard to go and stand in the open French windows at the rear of my apartment and see how the colours of the landscape across to the city are creating a quilt of russets, browns, oranges and some greens. I like to see the twilight come early, the sky grow pale and the lamps lit. A coolness on my cheek suits my temperament that much better. Jeez, I think I’m turning into Badger in The Wind In The Willows.

Day #64 Tip: Work on a number of levels
Layering is not restricted to clothing, it’s a tool of the screenwriter too.

The writing credits for the romantic comedy/period piece Shakespeare In Love go to Marc Norman and (Sir?) Tom Stoppard on the front of the screenplay that I have. Memory tells me that the playwright, Stoppard, was brought in some way into the project to do his thing, to weave his writing wand.

Shakespeare In Love is a great piece of writing and not least of all because it works on a number of levels. For the audience member that is looking for a Romantic Comedy and/or a Comedy of Disguise, then it’s here, in this film, in spades (doublet & hose too). Comedy of Disguise performances are always a star-turn vehicle for an actor - generally men - think Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire, Jack Black in School of Rock. Gwyneth Paltrow scooped an Academy Award for her portrayal of a young Elizabethan woman, pretending to be a young Elizabethan male actor playing a young Elizabethan/Italian woman. Have I got that right? I might have to watch it again to check. Did Gwyneth deserve the Oscar....that’s not for me to say. However I will mention that I have the sneaking suspicion that, amongst others, she was up against Emily Watson for Breaking The Waves?????!!!!! Hmm, food for thought?

On a second level, there is much to be had in Shakespeare In Love for anyone who is a lover of the theatre and it’s history - this is probably much of Stoppard’s work. If you know the world of stage and a little of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, then there is plenty to be mined in the film that will add to your enjoyment.

On a third level, Shakespeare In Love works for the audience member that is knowledgeable about Shakespeare and in particular, his works Twelfth Night and Romeo & Juliet. This film is a loose, fictionalised version about how maybe he, “Will”, came to write Romeo & Juliet and how the very experience of this love affair with “Viola” set him on the course of writing Twelfth Night (or What You Will). If you know Twelfth Night, then you’ll see and hear all the hidden gags and moments that reference that piece right through the film, right up until the last frame, when Will looks down at some writing on parchment or paper that says "What country friends is this?" (If you know Twelfth Night then....well, you get the idea).

Shakespeare In Love is not alone in being a screenplay and film that works on many levels or layers like it does, it is, however, the work of craftsmen and women working at the top of their game, just like Tom Stoppard is/was/can.

A winter’s tale indeed.

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